Vikings On The Rhine, Part One

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Knego heads to Koblenz, Germany, where Viking River Cruises’ VIKING HILD and VIKING HERJA Longships are christened.

Viking River Cruises

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THE SANDS OF ALANG: The latest DVD about shipbreaking in Alang, India

All photos by and copyright Peter Knego 2017 unless otherwise noted.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Of garlands and balloons:  MV VIKING HILD (left) and MV VIKING HERJA at Koblenz.

After the usual overnight commute, this time from San Diego via Atlanta and Frankfurt to Koblenz, Germany, I felt a familiar sense of joy when the coach finally neared the quay. Viking River’s two newest Longships, the VIKING HILD, my home for the next five nights and the VIKING HERJA, had just arrived from the shipyard to await their christening where the Moselle River converges with the mighty Rhine.

Guests enter the VIKING HILD at the Reception area, shown facing forward from Middle Deck.

The blunt-nosed Longships have four passenger decks, beginning at the top with Sun Deck, which features shaded and open sunning space, a walking track, putting green, shuffleboard court and an herb garden.

VIKING HILD Lounge, facing aft from starboard.

VIKING HILD Library, facing starboard.

Upper Deck is home to the indoor/outdoor Aquavit Terrace, the Lounge, the upper portion of Reception (with a Library and computer terminals) and accommodations. Middle Deck begins with the Restaurant and the lower portion of Reception (with a gift shop, concierge and reception desks) leading aft to accommodation and Lower Deck features accommodation.

VIKING HILD Explorer’s Suite living room, facing aft.

The Longships offer five categories of all-outside staterooms, from twenty five 150-square-foot Standards with a rectangular window to a pair of 445-square-foot Explorer Suites with a separate bedroom, a large living room and a wrap-around stern balcony.

VIKING HILD Veranda Suite, facing forward.

Seven 275-square-foot Veranda Suites have a separate living room opening onto a full balcony and bedrooms with French balconies. There are also twenty two staterooms with French balconies. In addition to two twin beds that convert to a queen, all boast 220-volt (European) and 110-volt (American style) outlets, free wifi, 40-inch flatscreen TVs and thoughtful touches like bathrooms with heated floors, anti-fogging mirrors and Freyja brand toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer and bath gel).

VIKING HILD, Veranda Stateroom 217, facing starboard.

My comfy residence for the short voyage would be 217 on starboard Middle Deck, one of the ship’s thirty nine Veranda Staterooms, measuring some 205-square feet.

Insalata caprese starter.

I was completely exhausted but couldn’t resist a light and satisfying meal in the Aquavit Terrace. Even the insalata caprese starter was a work of culinary art, topped with an edible violet pansy.

Deutsches Eck monument.

Just as I reached my stateroom, it was announced that the VIKING HILD, which by the way is named for the valkyrie that could revive fallen soldiers, would be maneuvering for the next hour or so. If anyone wanted to get off the ship, they had ten minutes to do so. Although I wanted to nap, I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch the new Longship “in action”, so I hopped off and watched from the adjacent Deutsches Eck monument as she and her sister VIKING HERJA cast their lines.

MV VIKING HILD at Koblenz.

The HERJA sailed up river, where she spun around and hove to while the HILD merely spun herself around. I figured correctly at the time that the maneuver was to align their bows by the monument for their christening the next day. As lines and gangways were re secured, I walked up river to the VIKING ALRUNA, which was also in port, presumably to accommodate Viking staff for the inaugural. I documented the empty ship before heading back to the HILD, where I finally succumbed to the jet lag and slept some twelve hours, missing out on joining my colleagues for what surely must have been a nice welcome dinner.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Cappuccino and croissant, Viking style.

I awoke at 5:00 AM, an hour before the coffee stations were scheduled to open with morning pastries and croissants. I took a leisurely shower, appreciating both the heated bathroom floor and the defogging mirrors, then bundled up for a walk around the sleeping ship.  I was happy to discover that Viking had thoughtfully stocked up the coffee stations with fresh croissants well before the designated hour (6:00 AM). I huddled up in a corner of the lounge with a piping hot cappuccino and a flaky, chewy croissant.

Peering into the skylight.

I drained the last bit of foam from my cup and climbed up to Sun Deck, where it was damp and cold, my sneakers squeaking their way along the wet turf.

Eck versus HILD.

Out on the Aquavit Terrace, there was a striking view of the Deutsches-Eck, which Viking had illuminated in brilliant crimson in anticipation of the christening.

Dawn over the HILD.

I walked over to the Deutsches Eck for a view of our ship as the gray morning dawned behind her. At some point in the night, the VIKING HERJA had sailed off to another berth along the Moselle.

Deutsches Eck illuminated.

The Deutsches Eck, built in 1897 to honor the reunification of Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, is a circular Roman-style stone monument topped with a huge bronze statue of the Kaiser on horseback that was destroyed in World War Two but restored in 1993. Located at the tip of Koblenz where the Rhine and Moselle intersect, it gives the impression of a superstructure overlooking the prow of a massive ship.

Afternoon tours.

I headed back aboard the VIKING HILD and changed into my running gear. After such a good night’s sleep, I had the stamina for a long run but had no idea precisely what I was getting into, having misjudged the distance between the two rivers after heading up the Rhine promenade for about two miles. Long story short, I did not get back to the HILD until noon, just in time for a quick lunch and then a chance to clean up, bundle back up and head off on an afternoon walking tour of the scenic town.

Tulips, Jesuit style.

Nouveau Hyegea.

In the Jesuit district, we stopped to admire some of the Jugendstil (or Art Nouveau) facades, including a stunning Hyegea (the goddess of hygiene) above one of the town’s oldest pharmacies.

Mittelrhein Museum.

Rhine ship simulator.

After exploring the old city square, we wandered into the downtown area, stopping at the Mittelrhein Museum and its Romanticum exhibit dedicated to the history and lore of the Rhine.

Koblenz church.

On our way back to the ship, we passed the twin-spired Basilica of St. Castor.

Cir-pendicular.

And just behind the Deutsches Eck, there is a modern art museum with some interesting sculptures in its adjoining garden.

Viking portal.

Back aboard the VIKING HILD, there was enough time for lunch and a quick change into something slightly more formal.

Torstein Hagen.

At 3:00 I joined my media cohorts in the Restaurant for a press conference helmed by Viking Cruises’s founder and CEO, Torstein Hagen. After some talking points about pricing and itineraries, he shared some interesting new developments within the rapidly expanding company. Despite only launching two Longships in 2017 (in the six years prior, there were 46), overall growth at the 20-year old line continues at a dazzling pace. Two new ocean ships join the fleet this year, four more by 2022 and there is an option for two more that could ultimately bring Viking Ocean’s fleet to ten. Meanwhile, Viking River will augment its worldwide tally of 65 river cruise ships with a Nile vessel (due to enter service as the Viking Ra next year) a river ship dedicated to the Mandarin market, reactivation of its Ukraine river cruise itinerary and continued pursuit of a Mississippi River venture in the very near future.

Champagne greetings.

The grim weather gave way to partially sunny skies as the christening ceremony began.

Pavilion for a day.

Viking had erected a temporary pavilion at the base of the monument for the celebration dinner.

Tor and the godmothers.

Golden shears.

Mr. Hagen assembled with the godmothers in the shelter of a small gazebo where a pair of golden shears awaited atop two red velvet pillows.

Karine Hagen.

Hagen’s lovely daughter Karine, whose distinctive voice and smile highlight Viking’s ubiquitous television commercials, stood steps away.

Longship overview from Deutsches Eck.

From the Deutsches Eck, there was a nice view of the two Longships (the HERJA had returned earlier that afternoon) and the Ehrenbreitstein fortress across the Rhine.

HERJA break.

After a short speech by Mr. Hagen, the Viking Hild’s godmother Debbi Wiseman, an award-winning British composer/conductor, used a pair of golden shears to cut a ribbon that released a bottle of champagne into the ship’s bow.

HILD, with a little help from a friend.

The Viking Hild’s godmother, Dr. Princess Stephanie Lowenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, CEO of the Weingut Fürst Löwenstein winery soon followed, however, the bottle did not break upon first impact, so a crew member quickly came to the rescue and dispatched it by hand,

Inaugural setting.

Dinner and a cabaret style show followed in the pavilion.

Ecks-it!

We exited the event into a chilly rain.

Fireworks over Koblenz.

From the sanctuary of the VIKING HILD, I watched as fireworks reigned over Koblenz. In true Viking Cruises style, they could be seen and heard for miles around

End Of Part One

Click Here For Part Two

Very special thanks:  Sara Conley, Ian Jeffries

Peter Knego

Peter Knego

Having documented over 400 passenger ships and taken more than 200 cruises, MaritimeMatters’ co-editor Peter Knego is a leading freelance cruise writer, a respected ocean liner historian and frequent maritime lecturer both on land and at sea.  With his work regularly featured in cruise industry trades and consumer publications.  Knego also runs the www.midshipcentury.com website which offers MidCentury cruise ship furniture, artwork and fittings rescued from the shipbreaking yards of Alang, India.  He has produced several videos on the subject, including his latest, The Sands Of Alang and the best-selling On The Road To Alang."
Peter Knego

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